Construction season is here: How do new developments affect traffic in Fort Wayne, and what’s next?

Every day, Fort Wayne residents traverse busy streets to get to work, school, and leisure activities safely. But the average traveler might not consider the underlying infrastructure that produces safe and efficient streets—or what could make traffic flow better as Fort Wayne grows.

That’s the job of Kyle Winling, a Traffic Engineer for the City of Fort Wayne.

Winling says the city continues to make adjustments to its roads with efficiency in mind, and as the city develops and adapts to greener forms of transit, these plans are taking on increased importance. 

As construction season begins and landmark projects like Electric Works Phase 1 near completion, one of the most important functions of the Traffic Engineering department is access control for new developments.

“We do our best to maintain progression and safety along a corridor, and each developed area has an impact to traffic,” Winling says. “It may either generate traffic volumes or capture the existing traffic volumes and change their patterns around the development.”

He adds that, when new developments occur in the city, two of the biggest concerns are access and stormwater runoff. 

“So in part, I would say that Traffic Engineering’s discussion with developers on access management (traffic planning) does and will have an effect on who or what kinds of development happen in the city,” Winling says.

Looking to the future, what plans does Fort Wayne have to adapt to changing traffic patterns in the city? And what traffic alleviation methods might make sense with limited space?

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Winling to discuss a few options and learn what’s working.

Slip lanes

A slip lane allows for traffic from Parnell Avenue to almost seamlessly merge onto Coliseum Boulevard and reduces the chances for “t-bone” crashes at the interchange.


The introduction of “slip lanes” to certain intersections has been shown to improve traffic flow at busy city intersections across the U.S. A slip lane is a dedicated right-turn yield lane that allows for congruent, smooth, and safer changes in vehicular direction. People utilize these traffic devices in intersections like that of St. Joe Center and St. Joe Road, and Coliseum Boulevard and Parnell Avenue, among many others. 

So if this seemingly simple addition to an intersection improves traffic flow, why doesn’t the city implement slip lanes in more instances?

Winling says that while there are places where slip lanes are practical, space constraints in existing intersections limit the viability of this option to improve traffic flow.

“There is a time and place when these work well, and a lot has to do with the available lanes for cars to go into and out of,” he says. “These are mainly used on state routes where there are multiple lanes. But on many city streets, we would have to widen the road to accomplish a slip lane.”

Frontage road systems

A frontage road system utilizes a central expressway with slower-moving side streets, which improves traffic flow and efficiency. This solution could alleviate traffic concerns on IN-930 in the future if land is available to widen the road.


Another traffic flow improvement system could be the introduction of a “frontage road” system. This traffic solution places fast-moving, through traffic on a central route, with side roads (frontages) on which the fast-moving traffic can exit. 

Some of the most troublesome intersections in Fort Wayne are along the congested state route IN-930, which runs concurrently with much of Coliseum Boulevard. Converting a portion of IN-930 into a frontage road system might greatly improve traffic flow in the area. Through traffic could utilize the central expressway strip, while cars going to the many shops located along the road would use the side frontage roads. Improvements to Coliseum Boulevard are, for the most part, controlled by the State of Indiana, but from the city side, Winling thinks that the purchase of additional land for this solution would become a roadblock.

“If there was right of way available, a frontage road would be great, but even INDOT is limited on what and where they can make improvements,” he says.

Even so, he adds that the intersection of IN-930 and US-27 is being reconfigured to increase capacity and to improve north and south movements through the crossing.

Traffic circles (aka roundabouts)

The former “Five Points” intersection has become a roundabout, providing for improved traffic flow, increased safety, and likely leading to lower annual costs.

One of the most cost-effective, efficient, yet (surprisingly) controversial ways to pass traffic through an intersection is through use of a traffic circle, known by many in Fort Wayne as a “roundabout.” A roundabout has a 30-50 percent increase in traffic capacity when compared to a typical intersection, according to INDOT. The service life is significantly longer; there are fewer annual costs; and they offer a 76 percent reduction in injury crashes. 

Roundabouts have slowly begun to replace a few intersections in Allen County to improve traffic flow. For example, crews recently started construction on a roundabout at the intersection of Union Chapel Road and Parkview Plaza Drive.
Another roundabout in recent years was added to a former five-way intersection along Goshen Avenue near Lincoln Park and Five Points neighborhoods.

“These are improvements that upgrade a major corridor, but more importantly, add safety features to connect businesses and neighborhoods,” said Mayor Tom Henry at the roundabout’s opening in 2020, according to WANE-15. “The Five Points roundabout will enhance traffic flow and safety, and anyone familiar with the area will definitely appreciate the sidewalks and stormwater improvements.”

The former “Five Points” intersection has become a roundabout, providing for improved traffic flow, increased safety, and likely leading to lower annual costs.

However, on social media, there seems to be heavy opposition to the introduction of roundabouts on city streets. Winling says that, while the city does see some complaints with the introduction of roundabouts, overall, drivers seem to have welcomed the changes.

“Once in a while, we will get a complaint from drivers who are more experienced driving alongside drivers who are less experienced within roundabouts,” he says. “This will sometimes lead to frustration with the experienced drivers who may complain about an issue.”

At intersections without roundabouts, surrounding traffic signals play an important role in efficiently moving traffic from one block to the next. The City of Fort Wayne annually recalibrates its traffic light sequences to better match the city’s changing needs and will re-examine these sequences by request.

“All traffic signals in the city are reviewed annually and certified,” Winling says. “However, we are consistently reviewing signals either by design or by request to see if improvements or changes are necessary.”

Bypasses

Coliseum Boulevard is infamous for traffic congestion issues and may benefit from a number of innovative traffic alleviation methods.


A traffic alleviation device that has been implemented twice in Fort Wayne history is the introduction of a bypass. This option diverts through traffic from internal city streets to highways around the city. Coliseum Boulevard was the first bypass around the North side of the city when it was built in the 1950s. I-469 became the second as it was finished in the late 1980s. One primary objective of this new auxiliary interstate was to reduce traffic through Downtown, especially traffic due to semi-trucks. This route saw the realignment of many highways that had previously crossed the heart of the city onto new routes at or around the city’s borders. 

So in the decades since the first cars rolled across I-469, has it fulfilled this objective?

Winling says that, from a city perspective, the interstate has alleviated through traffic.

“I don’t have the numbers, but the I-469 bypass has reduced traffic on the SR-930 corridor and cut-through traffic in both Fort Wayne and New Haven,” he says.

However, as the population grows, vehicular traffic will continue to increase within Fort Wayne. While I-469 has alleviated through traffic, the city’s internal traffic remains a concern. Long and slow-moving semi-trucks still frequently travel across town along IN-930, and along US-27 through Downtown, too. An increase in traffic flow efficiency could help Fort Wayne better accommodate additional residents and developments. 

On this note, Winling says the city looks at traffic in more ways than just focusing on vehicular traffic, too.

“For example, we incorporate sidewalks or trails as alternate methods for transportation,” he says. “This serves those who don’t drive and provides an option for people not to have to drive if we provide safe routes to destinations. If drivers, pedestrians, and trail users all work together, obey traffic rules, pay attention, and be respectful of each other, it will make communities more friendly and livable. Fort Wayne is progressively designing and incorporating treatments to help enforce this concept. As our designs continue to evolve, I would hope that drivers understand the importance of respecting all users of the right of way.”

As the region grows, the Department of Traffic Engineering will play an essential role in attracting residents to the area. Through the careful planning of new developments and adjustments to existing infrastructure, the department hopes to lead residents—both current and future—safely to their destinations.

This story is part of a series on the 8 Domains of Livability in Northeast Indiana, underwritten by AARP.